The Crowning Rebellion

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Oh, my god, why did I have to get stuck with this kid? Seriously. As soon as I saw her pass by, I knew she would be trouble. She was the type. Cute little girl dragging her poor father by the hand down the aisle, sporting a purple T-shirt with “Princess” emblazoned in sparkly letters across the front. Don’t parents realize that putting their children in clothes like that is just asking for them to be little brats?
Anyway, I was standing there in my box, grinning like a fool, because, well, what other choice did I have? If I didn’t constantly have a facial expression like it was Christmas morning, the store would think I was defective and toss me out. I knew this for a fact; it happened the other day to the chick on the shelf right across from me.
So I was standing there, praying that she was just looking for a new dream house or something. But oh, no, it was me she wanted, a fact that she made known to her frazzled father and probably the entire store. She saw me and started jumping up and down in excitement, tugging on her dad’s shirt and begging him to buy me. The dad looked at everything else piled in his cart (which was also carrying a small toddler in the little seat up front): frilly skirts and shirts, a plastic jewelry set, a stuffed panda, and new games for a Wii.
“Kaylee, don’t you think you have enough new things today?” he asked.
Stupid question. “Pleeeease!” she whined. “I really really really want it!”
“Kaylee, come on, we have to go home, Lily has to take a nap…”
Kaylee started whining louder, causing nearby people in the store to stare. The dad looked around wearily, and I begged for this man to have a shred of strength and stand his ground. But he seemed to want to do anything to just shut her up and get out of there. He pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. “Okay, but that’s it, we’re going home now.”
Little Princess Kaylee squealed and grabbed my box in excitement, causing me to be shaken around helplessly inside of it. My head smacked into the giant plastic brush that comes with me.
So here I am, hours later, having half of the hair ripped from my scalp by the aforementioned brush and my head bent in unnatural and painful positions. Of course, in the space of five minutes, my shoes were gone, and I’ll probably never see them again. Which is a shame, because I actually liked that pair. I’m an Exercise Emma, so I get to wear sneakers instead of those torturous plastic heals that most of my friends are stuck with. She changed me into a hideous outfit and keeps trying to cram me into a pink jeep that no longer has the steering wheel.
Why couldn’t I have gotten some nice old lady who just keeps Crowning Dolls as collector’s items? They probably don’t see Exercise Emma as important enough to hold onto as compared to, say, the Special Edition Christmas Caroline, but it would have been so much nicer. Yeah, sure, I’d be stuck strapped into my box for much longer, sitting on a shelf once again. But at least I wouldn’t be subjected to this torture. I guess it could be worse. If I see her hand go anywhere near a pair of scissors, I’m out of here.
Kaylee’s mom calls her to dinner from the kitchen. She runs out of the room, and I immediately disentangle myself from the jeep’s seatbelt. I look around the room and spot a toy box pushed up against the opposite wall. Curious as to who I’ll be living with now, I hurry over to take a look inside.
I can’t believe my eyes when I see is a Talking Tara, one of my best friends who got shipped to a store one town over. She looks horrible: mismatched clothes, patches of green in her hair, and what looks like a bite mark on one of her hands. Lily, I think, shaking my head. I shake her awake, and she almost shouts in surprise. I hold my finger to my lips, in case they’re close enough to hear us.
“What are you doing here?” I whisper. “I thought you were sent to-”
“I was,” she interrupts excitedly. “This girl’s grandma lives there and bought me for her birthday last month!”
“Jeez, her birthday was just a month ago and her dad was still buying her all that stuff today?”
“Yeah, and she doesn’t take care of her stuff either, as you can tell. My batteries are almost out. Which is just as well, because if I have to say ‘Let’s go shopping!’ one more time, I think I may kill myself.”
“Tara, that’s no way for a children’s toy to talk!” Another voice comes from further inside the toy box, and I know who it is instantly. As if this day could not be any worse…
Super Star Stacy comes climbing up through the mess of stuffed animals, puzzles, dress-up clothes, and lots of other old random junk. I haven’t seen her in a few weeks, and I had hoped to keep it that way. My store kept selling out of her, along with all of the other toy stores across the country, so she was on back order. But I should have known: any six-year-old girl that wears a ‘Princess’ shirt is going to have a Super Star Stacy.
I don’t try to hide my annoyance. “Stacy, what a surprise to see you at the bottom of the toy box.”
She gives me a condescending smile. “Oh, Emma. I wouldn’t expect you to understand how things work when you’re a little girl’s toy. I’m shocked that you’ve actually been bought! What does a little girl want with an exercising doll, after all?”
“Just because some of us aren’t prancing around in little sparkly outfits with a microphone-”
“Please. You know that I’m the most wanted toy in the whole country right now. Jealousy doesn’t look good on anyone, Emma.”
I laugh in her face. “Jealousy? Why would I be jealous of you? I feel sorry for you. You do everything that Crowning tells us to do! You have no mind of your own! Need I remind you of the time a bunch of us tried to protest outfits that didn’t fit with our jobs-”
“Yeah, Nurse Natalie should not have to wear heals and a full face of makeup;” Tara interjected.
“Exactly,” I agree. “So we tried to do something about it, tell them we wanted to choose what we wear and how we look. But you just had to suck up to them.”
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with wanting everyone to look nice.” Stacy shrugs innocently. “And it’s not my fault that I’m the one with the most influence. Maybe if you started selling more…”
I’m about to yell something back, but Tara holds up her hand.
“Emma, this is not important right now, ignore her. We need to get out of here.”
“Get out of here? How? And go where?”
“Back to the store! I don’t know! I can’t take it anymore! Two days ago it was
‘Oh, whoops, I left Tara out for the baby to get a hold of and start chewing on! Yesterday it was ‘Let’s see what Tara looks like with green hair!’ And don’t even get me started on having to live with her,” she gestures to Stacy, who rolls her eyes haughtily.

I think for a minute. “Tara, if we just go back to the store, we’ll just get sold to another kid. Or even if we don’t, and we’re just stuck there for a while, is that really much better? Do you want to just keep on living according to how everyone else wants us too? While we’re in the factory, we have to be whoever corporate wants us to be. And when we get sold, we have to do whatever the kid wants us to do….”

Tara’s eyes widen. “What are you saying?”

“I’m saying we get out of here, round up all the girls-you, me, Natalie, Cara, Daphne, whoever-and we tell them we’re not going to take it. There needs to be a change, for all of us.”

She nods along with me and grins. “I like it.”

We are so excited about this idea that we completely forget we’re not alone until Stacy clears her throat.

“Sorry to burst your bubble, girls, but you clearly don’t know me very well-”

“I wish,” I mutter.

“-if you think I’m just going to stand aside and let you leave! You have a duty as Crowning Dolls to listen to the kids and do what they say!”

“I don’t care!” I yell. “No one asked my opinion on this! I just woke up one day, wearing a hot pink tracksuit and blonde hair, and was told what to do! Doesn’t that make you angry?”

“I’m never angry! I have a smile painted on my face!” She demonstrates by flashing me a grin and flipping her long hair.

I groan in frustration. “Whatever, Stacy. You can stay and be a puppet your whole life. We’re going.”

“I don’t think so!” And before we can stop her, she jumps out of the toy box and slams the lid shut on both of us. We hear a click, and Tara groans.

“She just locked it.”

I sigh. “This is so not what I need right now…” I look around the toy box to see if there is anything we can use to get out. “Come on, help me,” I say to Tara.

We dig for what seems like an hour, but is probably only ten minutes. Tara says, “It’s no use, this is all just junk. Look, an old shoelace, some marbles, an old steering wheel…”

I snap my head in her direction. “Steering wheel? Wait, that’s perfect! We can use that!”

“How are we going to break out of here with a steering wheel?”

“No, no to break out. For that, we can….I don’t know, we’ll tell Stacy something to get her to open the lid. Then, we tie her up with the shoelace, grab the steering wheel, and drive out in the jeep!”

“Emma, if we manage to pull that off without the humans seeing us…”

“Well, we have to try, right? Come on, take this end of the shoelace and follow my lead.” We position ourselves at either end of the toy box and I call out: “Stacy? Stacy?”

“What do you want?” She demands from the outside.

“To apologize! You’re right, we shouldn’t just shirk our responsibilities.”

Stacy snorts. “Do you really think I’m that stupid?”

I resist the urge to answer. “Honestly, we’re sorry! Locking us in here with all of Kaylee’s other toys, you made us realize that we can’t just leave this little girl when we make her so happy! We just have so much to learn from you…There’s a reason you’re the best selling doll, after all.”

Tara is suppressing laughter. “Nice touch,” she whispers.

There’s a moment of silence, and I start to panic that it didn’t work. But then we hear clicking again, and light floods into the box. Stacy appears, and I yell, “NOW!”

We jump up and tie her with the shoelace so she can’t move her arms and legs, and let her drop onto a pile of stuffed animals. The whole time she’s yelling at us, “TRAITORS! JUST WAIT TIL I TELL CROWNING!” We lock the box and Tara jumps into the passenger side of the jeep while I re-attach the steering wheel. I start to drive out of the room when Kaylee walks in, locking eyes with me.

If I had a heart, it definitely would have stopped beating at that moment.

“Mommy! Look! My dolls!” She runs out of the room to get her mom, and I speed into the room right across the hall. We hear footsteps coming back toward us and Kaylee exclaiming, “My dolls! They were driving!”

Both of her parents are behind her, laughing. “Honey, I’m sure they weren’t driving,” they’re both telling her in kind voices.

It’s the perfect moment. All of them are in the other room, not paying attention. I turn to Tara. “You ready?”

She nods. “You have no idea.”

“Hold on,” I warn her. Then I push the pedal to the floor and we book it out of there.





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